Top athletes in the world are groomed at a young age to practise and execute the basic fundamental skills of their sport choice. Let’s take the Williams sisters as an example, who started learning how to play tennis at approximately 5 years of age. At ages 5 – 7 a child’s muscular strength, co-ordination and stamina increase, thus if we seek to create excellence, it has to start at this elementary stage. Children are a niche market that has not quite fully been explored; there remains a gap particularly in South Africa which eventually has led to the lack of skills and specialty development. If we want to be the best, we must do the best do and more.
I am going to focus on the fundamental movement abilities that will assist sport specialists (manager/scientist) identify talented children to mould to greatness.Fundamental physical ability is a crucial element to child development, and thus needs to be closely observed and developed. Children develop differently according to age group, stimulation, exposure to modelling figures demonstrating physical movements. Movement has basic elements such as locomotion, stability and manipulation of which mastery is dependent on age variation and maturity levels (Gallahue & Ozmun). The fundamental movement phase is between the ages 2 -7 and is divided into the Initial stage (2 – 3 years), Elementary stage (4 – 5 years), and Mature stage (6 – 7 years).
The term ‘fundamental movement abilities’ or ‘skills’ describes movement patterns that include the basic movements of various parts of the body first in isolation. These movements are the basis of physical ability and knowledge. (Gallahue & Ozmun). Fundamental movements are needed to be able to do more specialized or complex skills used in games, everyday life and specific sports codes. (Broomfield). Fundamental movement abilities include locomotion – being able to move from point A to point B, stability – being able to keep an upright position against gravity and manipulation – being able to make contact with an object by exerting force against the object or absorbing force from the object. (Gallahue & Ozmun).
Let’s look at the recommended age to start grooming a child within a sport specific perspective which is the elementary stage (4-5), and explore the common abilities that a child should be capable of:
Children are more aware of their environment (spatial recognition) and can thus influence it more than it influences them. They can ride a bike without bumping into objects.
As they continue to practise gross motor skills, they start perfecting most skills, for example hand and eye coordination improves.
With intellectual improvements also coming into play, the child starts to advance in accordance to what they would like to do, for example after catching a ball they may decide to throw it back or dibble it.
Many children fail to get past this stage because of limited exposure and practise availed to their environment.
Given the aforementioned information, it is quite clear that this market should be explored in order to broaden the field in our industry, create a new market or even improve on an existing one by developing children at the appropriate age to produce champions of our own in South Africa. It starts with just one child!
Chapman, S. & Rupured, M., 2008. Time Mnagement: 10 Strategies for better time mangement, United State: Cooperative Extension.
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